The Healthcare Internet Conference (HCIC) was held in Orlando, Florida from November the 9th to 11th, and the Sitefinity team was there hosting a speaker’s track on web tools. That means we got to meet, introduce and listen to speakers from healthcare systems, as well as the web agencies and system integrators that helped them achieve their online visions. What was discussed in the sessions confirmed some things I suspected and taught me more about where these organizations are on their roads of digital transformation.
The first thing to point out is the range of sizes of these healthcare systems. During the conference I spoke to people from systems that were a single hospital with a small cadre of outside doctors and practitioners. Others I spoke with have dozens of major facilities, and host patients in tens of thousands of beds across multiple states and regions.
However, they all had similar goals.
The words that I kept hearing were competition and transparency. All of these healthcare systems, whether they were providing gastrointestinal procedures or orthopedic surgery, were competing for the eyes, ears, hearts and minds of potential patients and doctors. Potential patients and doctors that are acting like every other consumer for every other product that they intend to buy. They want as much information as they can get before they make a choice, and if the hospital isn’t making that information available they will find it elsewhere.
As a result, all of these organizations are trying to create digital properties to provide transparency and information to prospective patients. For instance:
- Providing doctor ratings using companies like Press Ganey or Healthgrades
- Personalized content focused on doctors or patients, and then down to specific areas of interest such as pre-natal care or cardiology
- Community outreach programs and schedules to connect with people in their local region
- Video assets such as “talk shows” with specialists as edutainment
A unique aspect of the healthcare industry is the amount of open communication that happens between organizations with regard to how they are marketing and the technology they are using. There never seems to be the type of concern that is seen in other industries about “trade secrets” or “proprietary best practices”. Perhaps it’s due to the business they are in. Doctors don’t hide a new technique that could help save a patient’s life, and that seems to carry through to the entire organization.
That’s the good part, but there is a downside too.
This has also led to a “me too” approach to technology adoption. Most health systems, when approached with a proposal of a new process, technology or platform will immediately ask: who else in the industry is using it successfully? I heard stories during sessions of IT departments that described how healthcare organizations, when presented with case studies of universities or trade associations using a technology highly effectively, would deny them as valid examples. Even to the point of one healthcare IT leader saying, “Universities will try anything, show me a hospital.”
I walked out of the conference with a far better understanding of the ins-and-outs of what is happening with digital technology in the healthcare industry. Most organizations seem to be on the same road, but at different mile markers as they struggle with budgets, mergers, acquisitions, politics and the like. For them the good news is that there are likely role models in other health systems that they can emulate. However, I would suggest that they look beyond their industry to see how other organizations are solving problems as well; they might learn a thing or two.